Exciting Sailing with EAST - (two accounts of the VI cruises) I embarked on the 8 day cruise last year very much in two minds. I was really excited and looking forward to a nice break where I could learn some new skills, but on the other hand, I felt very nervous about getting used to a new environment with people I didn't know! I had no need to worry, as aboard Rosabella, I had the most wonderful skipper and crew I could have wished for! We had such a good laugh on our yacht and all worked together to get lots of successful and enjoyable sailing in, regardless of the rough conditions! If you ever have the good fortune to crew on Rosabella, you'll have a chance to sample the legendary elevensies and pasties! I learned many things from my sighted crew that week, which was great! My challenge for this year is to master the perfect bowline! I also got spoilt rotten and had some exquisite culinary experiences aboard! If you think it was all hard work, well you'd be wrong! The social life with EAST is amazing with a brilliant and thoughtfully planned introduction to other crew courtesy of a safari supper! Then we had cruise get togethers for some hilarious community singing (in French), quizzes and a very competitive game of call my bluff, plus an absolutely epic day out for a whistlestop tour of Harwich, so excellently masterminded by Trevor when the weather was too bad for sailing. The highlight of the week was definitely fish and chips in the Electric Palace while a man rehearsed his trumpet for a concert the following evening! I am so looking forward to doing more sailing and seeing my lovely supportive VI and sighted fellow sailors again! Definitely no more Whisky Macs on Scallywag though! Darren's notes- A sailor’s life for me seemed quite improbable this time last year. I clearly recall tuning into the Discovery channel and becoming inspired hearing about the wonderful adventures others were enjoying. After rationalising my exuberance about climbing mountains or walking along the Great Wall of China, I came to my senses and took a more amenable approach. Both Essex and Suffolk are blessed with numerous bodies of water, rivers and an intriguing coastline. Instinctively, exploring the regions waterways became my focus. And with a simple internet search, I unearthed the East Anglian Sailing Trust (EAST) based at the Suffolk Yacht Harbour in Levington near Ipswich. Although not absolutely necessary, I decided to become a full member as it gave me access to the first draft of sailing dates. So having completed the EAST application form and health questionnaire, which is designed to both inform and identify how EAST can best achieve the most inclusive experience for you. It then seemed sensible to go along for one of the free taster sailing days to test the waters. This took place on a beautiful spring day in May. My skipper met me at Ipswich train station as arranged and kindly drove me to the Suffolk Yacht Harbour in Levington. Once there, I was warmly greeted by the cruise coordinator and our other crew members. It was all very friendly and I was really encouraged by the high level of disability awareness. They all addressed me by name so I knew they were talking to me and they kept me informed about what was happening each step of the way. It was never rushed but always thorough. No assumptions were made but help was always on offer. And so with my buoyancy aid checked to ensure I had correctly fitted it, we began the few minutes’ walk down to the pontoon. Safely guided into position at the side of the yacht, I used the hand rail to aid me in taking a high step up and aboard. With a bit more shuffling and guidance, I edged my way along the side of the yacht and was offered a helping hand to step down and then down again to take a seat on deck. Before too long, I was being given a touch tour and descriptions of what was out of reach but equally useful to know. This continued below deck likewise, where both coffee and more orientation were plentiful. The most humorous discovery being the marine toilet. A manual pump action facility you inevitably learn to respect! Soon enough I was back upstairs on deck and offered opportunities to be involved with preparing to set sail. They were basic jobs such as retrieving fenders and stowing them away. Plus the chance to release, haul, or coil up rope as instructed. The sun beamed and so did I. None more so than when I later got the chance to take the helm and use the on board audio compass to steer a course. This was achieved by turning the helm either to port or starboard depending on whether I heard a low or higher pitched beep generated by the audio compass. This was an enjoyable challenge trying not to either under or over steer and felt good when I managed to keep the audio compass quiet, which demonstrated I was keeping the yacht on a true course – in varying bursts! The skipper was a generous host, and with the assistance of the other two sighted crew members, there was a hearty array of food being consumed whilst the helming duties were shared. It all made for a superb days sailing down the river Orwell and out into the North Sea – just as I had imagined it during those cold winter months awaiting this now fulfilled adventure. I hasten to say that this was the first of three sailing experiences with EAST during 2017. It was followed up by me going back again a few weeks later upon a different yacht for a two nights on board cruise. Where following a delicious dinner in the Waterside Community Centre ashore, we later climbed aboard the yacht and settled down for the night. Although not before listening to a cracking thunder storm and the sound of rain drops making unfamiliar noises as they coalesced and hit various parts of the yacht. The second night was in stark contrast. We arrived at Titchmarsh near Walton-on-the-Naze in sunny conditions and indulged in a sumptuous barbeque. The third of my sailing trips last season, was on board a Keelboat. This being a much more basic boat with bench seats, a tiller, and no audio compass. Nor a marine toilet! The technique here being to keep the wind or air flow direction pressing against you in the same spot to try to hold a course. This was great fun and the fact that the boat is sat much lower in the water, really gives a stronger sense of speed. Similarly, using a tiller to steer gave an enhanced connection to the water and the forces acting upon it. Unlike the visually impaired cruising on board the yachts, the Keelboat sailing is offered to a wide ranging demographic. This is down to the Keelboats being a simple and open design. Therefore, wheelchair users can be accommodated on board using their shore side lifting hoists to great effect. It should also be noted that the safety element employed during all three of my sailing trips was reassuring and never underestimated. Everyone wears a buoyancy aid. All boats have a VHF communication radio and safety equipment on board. Plus the ratio of crew on board and the presence of other EAST boats and safety vessels sailing in close proximity was impressive.